MReport March 2017

TheMReport — News and strategies for the evolving mortgage marketplace.

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44 | TH E M R EP O RT SERVICING THE LATEST O R I G I NAT I O N S E R V I C I N G DATA G O V E R N M E N T S E C O N DA R Y M A R K E T Plywood Not Favored by First Responders Vacant properties invite squatters, vandalism, community blight, and crime; and plywood can exacerbate these issues. T he property preserva- tion industry's age-old standard for securing windows on vacant residential homes, plywood, has come under heavy scrutiny in the last couple of years due to issues that can arise when a plywood-secured property sits vacant for any period of time— squatters, vandalism, community blight, and violent crime. The industry has taken various measures to combat these issues. For instance, in November 2016 Fannie Mae announced that all of its residential properties in preforeclosure would be required to use an alternative to plywood to secure the homes. These issues affect more than those in the mortgage industry and in the community where the vacant properties are located, however. First responders are aware that any time they are called to a vacant property, there might be danger lurking inside— and that the vacant property might not be truly vacant. "The Seattle Fire Department has concerns when responding to structures that have been physi - cally modified, as it creates very dangerous and hazardous situa- tions for our firefighters," Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins said. "It is such a significant problem that we have created standard operating guidelines for derelict buildings to try and ensure the safety of our firefighters when re - sponding to these types of build- ings. In the vacant or abandoned buildings alone this year, SFD has seen 16 fires in these kinds of structures." In a hurricane-prone area such as Miami, homeowners some - times board their windows up through hurricane season. "Any time we encounter a situa- tion where there are boards on the windows, we never look at those properties as unoccupied. We never do that," said Captain Bill Gustin of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. When he is called to a property and there are boards on the win - dows, Gustin said the procedure is to look for extension cords running from the property to the home next door, where squatters may be borrowing electricity. "Several times I've cut those cords and seen people who are in there jump up and run out of there like a scared rabbit," Gustin said. As they do with any situation, first responders are careful to consider safety first when enter - ing a boarded-up house. "The first thing we need to do is make sure the scene is safe," said Captain Joseph Amador, Fire Captain with the San Diego Fire Department and Public

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